Could a $99 Chromebox be a game-changer?

Could a $99 Chromebox be a game-changer?

Summary: At a time when consumers are price-sensitive, a low price tag rules. A $99 Chromebox -- even running an operating system that, to most, is totally unfamiliar -- could be very disruptive.

TOPICS: Hardware, Cloud, Google

Rumors are circulating that Acer is planning to unveil a new Chromebox -- a compact desktop computer powered by Google's Chrome OS -- that could retail for as little has $99.

The cloud-centric Chromebox -- codenamed "Kiev" -- is thought to be powered by a 2.7GHz Pentium G630 and have 2GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive.

All this for $99 would be a undoubtedly be a game-changer is an environment where consumers are price sensitive. A system like this isn't going to run something like Crysis or be any good for video editing, but as a general-purpose desktop for in a home or office, it would be more than ideal.

If a system like this can hit the magic price of $99, I see a number of potential casualties:

  • PCs: Cheap PCs that are primarily used for Internet-based applications could suffer the most. As more and more people increasingly see Windows as a platform for launching a browser so they can access the Web, it is becoming difficult to justify the high price of a Windows license.

  • Windows 8: The appearance of what consumers view as a new operating system could mean that focus is shifted away from Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system.

  • Tablets: Devices such as the Chromebox could distract buyers -- consumers and enterprise alike -- away from tablets. Whether their appeal is short term, as was the case with netbook, or more permanent, as appears the case with tablets, will remain to be seen. This could have repercussions on Android, iOS, and Windows 8/RT sales.

  • Mac mini: In the firing line also would be Apple's Mac mini. A Chromebox such as this one is capable of doing what the Mac mini can do at a fraction of the price.

A $99 Chromebox -- even running an operating system that, to most, is totally unfamiliar -- would be very disruptive to a number of consumer electronics markets and could have quite far-reaching effects.

Topics: Hardware, Cloud, Google

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • ONly speaking for myself I don't find the device appealing...

    Nor am I a huge fan of the so called "Cloud" which as I understand it is yet another revision of the "dumb terminal" concept rejected years ago.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • The "so called" Cloud?

      You act like the Cloud is some abstract, rarely-used thing that wil die out. Come on, grandpa...the Cloud is where everything is going.

      Telegrams, shoe-shine stands, land-lines, and desktop applications are all gone or going.
      • A bit too abstract, perhaps . . .

        "You act like the Cloud is some abstract, rarely-used thing that wil die out."

        Well, it's certainly not rarely used . . .

        . . . but it *is* a bit too abstract. I've always thought that we should stop using that term.
        • Cloud sure has become

          a big BUZ word that has several meanings, these days.
          • 99$ for a browser is too expensive

            100$ more will get you a full function netbook or tablet.
          • Use a Chrome book and you'll understand

            At 100$, everyone can afford them, anywhere in the world.

            When you understand that the only sacrifice you currently make is just not being able to run CAD like apps (medium term this will not be an issue) and sacrifice a bit of computing speed most don't need. It does more than an iPad, cost less than Android and you can run many Android Apps.

            Any country that can provide 1mgbit bandwidth at a reasonable price for their markets makes this a no brainer. In fact countries or even counties that make gigabit bandwidth available and no or low cost may leverage this to become the next Silicon Valley.

            The fact that many may like or dislike this post is irrelevant. If true, "resistance is futile!".
      • Sorry Sunshine

        Having Windows 8, unable to update nor purchase apps and a broken connection leading to an ever broken PC, I say the cloud is the devil in disguise; a frustrating mess brought to us by misguided and shortsighted net gurus.

        Make me want to junk windows for Mac or Ubuntu
        • That makes no sense

          "unable to update nor purchase apps and a broken connection leading to an ever broken

          And what's different in OS X and Linux?
          William Farrel
      • A better perspective

        Is to accept, that what many call "Cloud" today, many of us call "The Internet" for decades.
    • Ubuntu would solve the cloud issue

      Chrome OS is nasty if you run out of Internet connection, you run in a high risk to loss the data you work in offline mode when you go back online.

      I like open source software, and I think Ubuntu is a much better option for a great hardware like this with such a low price.

      With Ubuntu you are not tied to only one browser, you can install Opera, Firefox or other browsers, instead of Chrome
      Gabriel Hernandez
      • Different designs different ideas

        Ubuntu like Windows would fall under a full blown Laptop category. Chromebooks are appliance terminals to the internet with near 0 maintenance..apples and oranges.
      • Was thinking that also

        I had the thought I could stick Ubuntu or SuSe on it and have a really cheap linux box.
    • @James Quinn

      Yes, this is a reincarnation of now the dead NetPC concept, except for the fact that it is promoted by Google, not Oracle or Netscape. I see the device can be used if the user is totally into Google eco-system and lives on the browser, otherwise, no use. Of course there are certain apps that take advantage of HTML5 offline capabilities, but not more than that.

      And these chromebooks support UEFI, I am just wondering why SJVN is not crying out loud.
      Ram U
      • Perhaps

        If the thing can boot any other OS, it will be great little computer at $99 (although unlikely to be possible).

        If not, it will just collect dust.
    • no

      think about it... MS introduced tablet pcs in 01 and everyone rejected them, years later, tablets are all the rage...
    • I think Chromebooks are an alternative to the "Dumb User" concept.

      Chromebooks aren't dumb terminals - dumb terminals simply display screens generated in a mainframe as is on a local display. Chromebooks are client server systems that can do intelligent processing both locally and on a server. They run Javascript or Native client code locally, and can operate offline (as the availability of offline applications indicate).

      No, Chromebooks are about Zero Maintenance, Zero Touch Administration, 8 second boot, instant sleep and resume, and availability of all user data, apps and settings and preferences from anywhere, and from any device including any convenient netcafe, any other Chromebook, your home Macbook, your office Windows PCs/laptops, your smartphones and tablets.

      Basically they are an alternative to the Windows "Dumb User" concept, where the user has to carry around a heavy hot and clunky device with a shory battery life everywhere, spend a lot of time configuring and maintaining Windows and figuring out how to do this, and typically wait for at least a minute for boot up (much more if network scripts are involved), and pay for the privilege of wasting your time on all this.
  • Another casualty:

    Intel margins.

    On top of that 100 bucks, you's need a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

    I do not see it threatening tablets much. Portability is just too important and tablet prices are still coming down.
    • Agreed

      This may end up fighting with cheaper Android Tablets. But if someone already tried out an Android Tablet such as Asus Transformer, I don't think they would look into this. Because Android Tablet gives more flexibility and has bigger ecosystem including peripherals and apps in addition to media/content.
      Ram U
      • not a tablet replacement

        This box is not intended to replace either a tablet or notebook (there are the Android tablets for the former and the Chromebook, for the later). It is more suitable as an thin PC replacement or for an TV add-on box (making the TV "smart").

        However, I fail to see why it need that spec for these tasks. Many dreamed for an $99 PC and the spec of this one rivals that of most desktop PCs still in use.
    • i/o peripherals

      How many people buy new monitor/keyboard/mouse when they buy new PCs? Alternatively, how many people who have already owned one or more PCs don't have spare peripherals lying about?

      This would hit the home REPLACEMENT PC market hard.